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3 Key Causes of Chronic Foot Pain

chronic foot pain

Chronic foot pain, if you have ever experienced it, or are currently trying to overcome it can be life-altering. Your quality of life is one of the things that can change with chronic foot pain. Things like being active with your loved ones, including family or friends can be painful or close to impossible. Activites that you once loved to do, with chronic foot pain you're not able to do them. Maybe your job or even career has been affected by chronic foot pain. This can be common for people who are on their feet during their time at work or are required to walk or lift constantly while on the job. As a foot doctor who specializes in holistic podiatry and functional medicine as a means to help people overcome their foot pain, this is a deep dive into reasons why someone, whether it's you or a loved one, could be dealing with chronic foot pain.

3 Key Causes of Chronic Foot Pain

1. Chronic inflammation

chronic foot pain

Chronic inflammation is a hallmark of chronic foot pain, and most patients who are treated for chronic foot pain have some level of chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation can be caused by changes to how your foot is shaped, and this will change how your foot is able to function or work. An immune system that is not working properly, can lead to chronic foot pain by being unable to heal foot injuries, or foot infections in a timely manner. Not all inflammation is bad though. Acute inflammation or primary inflammation is healthy and required for processes like the repair of cells, or larger structures in your foot, detoxification, defense against infection, and replenishment. Chronic inflammation happens when acute or primary inflammation is blocked. It is the goal of functional and holistic podiatry to find out why primary inflammation has been blocked and support the body in returning to this pathway so that healing can begin, and over time foot pain goes away. The causes of chronic inflammation are many. Here is an outline of the causes of chronic inflammation.

a. Other diseases Anytime your body is dealing with continuous or chronic health problems, like kidney disease, or diabetes, for example, this can increase the likelihood that you will develop chronic inflammation.

As time goes on, more research shows that the stomach and healthy gut bacteria are critical for a healthy immune system. These healthy gut bacteria help us digest foods but also help in resisting the overgrowth of bad bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

b. Diet

chronic foot pain

Diet plays a huge role in chronic inflammation. The Standard American Diet, which is high in refined carbohydrates, artificial dyes, certain inflammatory fats, synthetic flavors, and vastly empty of key vitamins minerals, and fiber is a one-way ticket to chronic disease. Having a healthy diet is paramount in trying to heal from an injury or infection.

c. Vitamin deficiencies

Certain vitamins and minerals are key for immune function. For example, Vitamin D3 is anti-inflammatory, supports immune health, protects your nerves, is key for muscle function, and brain cell activity. Vitamin D3 also decreases insulin resistance. Your body does make Vitamin D3, but it also can be found in certain foods. Unfortunately for the average person in the US, Vitamin D can be low, to the lower end of normal, which over time can cause health problems.

Magnesium is unfortunately a very common mineral deficiency. Magnesium is required for making protein, muscle and nerve function, blood sugar control, blood pressure regulation, making DNA, and even for building healthy bones. These are just to name a few of its functions. The majority of Americans are deficient in Magnesium, and this can also lead to chronic inflammation and chronic foot pain.

chronic foot pain

B vitamins are also key for human health. B vitamins are responsible for your metabolism, making new blood cells, skin cells, brain cells, and nerve cells, breaking down fats and sugars, making DNA, breaking down protein, and healthy immune function.

Zinc is also a very important mineral to human health which also tends to be low in many Americans. Symptoms of low Zinc include fatigue, insomnia, interrupted sleep, heart palpitations, and poor immunity.

d. Hydration

Every chemical reaction in the body happens in the presence of water. Water is a requirement for life and for healthy living. Not drinking enough water, or eating enough water-rich, hydrating foods can lead to health problems, including chronic inflammation. Water helps to flush out waste products from the body.

e. Lifestyle (exercise, stress, sleep, relationships. finances, social life)

chronic foot pain

Stress is probably the #2 reason I've seen patients with chronic inflammation. Stress hormones can over time cause a weakening of your immune system, which will make it much harder to heal from injury or infection.

Sleep is key for healthy immune function. Many of our body's regenerative and healing processes happen in our sleep. If sleep is consistently interrupted for any reason, this can also lead to chronic inflammation.

f. Environment

Environmental factors like your air quality, the water you're drinking, radiation exposure, home cleaning products used, and even local crime can have an effect on chronic inflammation as well.

g. Poor circulation

chronic foot pain

Not getting enough blood flow to your legs and feet can cause inflammation and chronic foot pain. This is because blood is necessary for healing. Blood flow and a healthy circulatory system are also key for removing waste products from an area.

h. Oxidative stress

Normal activities in the cells of your body like digestion, making energy, detoxification, and immune reactivity make highly reactive molecules called free radicals. Free radicals are neutralized by the body's natural anti-oxidant, this is mainly done by another compound called Glutathione.

Glutathione also prevents cellular damage from heavy metals.

If left unchecked, free radicals can damage cell membranes, proteins, and even DNA, which can change genes that are expressed.

2. Biomechanics

chronic foot pain

Biomechanics is the study of how things move. A healthy foot has certain biomechanics that allow walking, standing, or running without pain. Whenever there are changes to the joints, ligaments, or muscles in the foot, how the foot functions will change, and this can increase your risk of developing chronic pain.

Issues to the ankle joint, knees, hips, or even back, can also affect the biomechanics of the foot, and also increase your risk of developing chronic foot pain.

Correcting for the wrong biomechanics helps improve chronic foot pain. Your foot functions as it should remove stress and strain from tendons, ligaments, and joints. The proper biomechanics also allows for proper muscle balance and function inside your foot.

There are two ways that biomechanics can be corrected. The first way is through targeted muscle training. These exercises and stretches can be done at home. Because the foot is dynamic and has to also move in addition to being able to hold up your body weight when moving, training certain muscle groups, when dealing with a specific foot issue can over time, correct for poor biomechanics, and slowly help you overcome chronic foot pain.

chronic foot pain

The second way to correct for poor biomechanics is through an orthotic. Orthotics, also known as shoe inserts are devices that you wear inside of your shoe. Custom orthotics are molded to your unique foot type, and then the foot doctor can make slight changes to the orthotic to align your foot, improve the biomechanics of your foot, and therefore help in the fight against chronic foot pain.

3. Genetic mutations/changes

Genetic changes or differences can be a cause of chronic foot pain. Finding out this information can be profound if you have been in pain for a long time.

Any change to your DNA, is considered a mutation.

a. SNPs

chronic foot pain

A single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs) is one kind of gene mutation that happens when a part of the DNA is added or removed from the rest of a DNA sequence.

SNPs can be hereditary or can happen because of environmental conditions, stress, and other activities of a healthy lifestyle.

If the SNP occurs in a specific part of your DNA, it can potentially lead to deficiencies in immune function.

b. Epimarks

Epigenetic marks, known as epi-marks are temporary "switches" that control how our genes are expressed.

Diet and lifestyle can actually change how our genes are expressed, and even can potentially be passed down to your children, and children's children, making them potentially more prone to certain diseases or making them more healthy.

Key Takeaways

As you can see, the causes for chronic foot pain are many but mainly fall into some sort of chronic inflammation with biomechanical issues, possibly even coupled with genetic changes. It should be your doctor's goal to get to the bottom of why you are having your chronic foot pain and manage or eliminate these factors, in order to help you on your journey to becoming foot pain-free. Each patient is unique, and in a functional/holistic practice, has to be treated as such.

Schedule Your Free Consultation at Direct Podiatry Arizona Today

Are you dealing with chronic foot pain and are in the Phoenix area? My name is Dr. Tarr, and I am the owner of Direct Podiatry Arizona in Tempe. To view my available appointment times for a free 15-minute consultation, click here.

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